CAMP RAMADI, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- The Marines of Truck Company trained from dawn until dusk, May 12, in an exercise designed specifically to combat insurgents.
The live fire and driving training package is nothing new to the Marines, who have been maintaining a steady curriculum of combat instruction since well before their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom earlier this year.
In the early morning hours, the sonorous Muslim call to prayer echoed outside the Camp Blue Diamond walls, where the Marines of Truck Co. are headquartered with the 2nd Marine Division’s headquarters battalion. They lugged ammunition boxes to their humvees and performed function checks on their machineguns as the morning light filtered through a sandy haze.
At daylight, the convoy left Blue Diamond for the firing ranges here to begin training, intended to combat insurgent activity on the Iraqi roadways.
“This kind of training gives us a better feel for how to engage our enemies and what to look for on the roads,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Whitfield, a 22-year-old Kinston, N.C. native and motor transportation operator.
Whitfield, with the rest of his company, separated into small security teams of three to four Marines who engaged silhouette targets in a sandlot. Each team took turns driving to the lot at full speed and stopping before the targets. Once stopped, a Marine who was posted in the turret fired on the targets with the M2 .50 caliber machinegun. The passenger and driver then stepped out with their M-16 A4 service rifles and fired their weapons in a torrent of firepower.
“This is my second time deployed to Iraq in two years,” said Whitfield, a 2001 Kinston High School graduate. “Becoming more familiar with the weapons systems just makes us more proficient in convoys wherever we go to support units.”
Actually, it is the second tour for many of the Marines with the company who have lived, trained and bonded throughout the long months in the desert here in the Al Anbar Province.
Indicative of Al Anbar’s weather, the desert winds quickly kicked up a sandstorm on the range. It made visibility a challenge for the shooters, but nothing that hindered them from hitting the targets – even at several hundred yards.
Many of Whitfield’s convoys take him and his company to unfriendly territory. His intensity in the training is an indicator of his professionalism on the job.
“It’s fun to be out here firing at targets and we all like a little competition,” said Whitfield. “But really, this is serious business.”
The Marines’ relentless drive throughout the day showed their commitment to operations here and their intensity when put to a test. Whitfield’s team even competed with other teams to brag about which Marines were more accurate shooters.
The Marines who provide transportation and security of troops and equipment for the 2nd Marine Division have a job incomparable to any other aboard the camp. Their dedication to transporting essentials their fellow Marines require to the camp can mean the difference between success and failure in operations.
“We have a good team here,” said Whitfield. “These guys are my best friends. I want to do everything I can to protect them and to support others.”